Saturday, April 12, 2008
Three Ohio State Troopers Disciplined, Ordered To Undergo Soviet-Style Diversity Re-Education After KKK Photo Stunt
Three Ohio State Troopers have been disciplined after one snapped a photo of another dressed up in a Ku Klux Klan-like outfit and sent the picture to a third trooper, who in turn sent it to a dispatcher. Full story reported April 12th, 2008 in the Sandusky Register. Now updated to include link to video posted by WSYX Channel 6 and link to CNN.
Update: On May 7th, 2008, the state troopers fired Wlodarsky and Franklin on Governor Strickland's order. Both are appealing; updated post HERE.
On January 20th, 2008, the day before Martin Luther King Day, Sergeant Eric E. Wlodarsky took a picture of Trooper Craig T. Franklin decked out in Klan-type regalia (pictured at left) while on duty at the Sandusky post. Wlodarsky then forwarded the picture via text message to Sergeant Jason P. Demuth at the Norwalk post. Demuth in turn forwarded the picture to dispatcher Gaby Highlander, who works at the Toledo post.
The incident came to light when the highway patrol's Administrative Investigative Unit received an anonymous letter postmarked January 22nd from Mansfield. In the letter were two photographs of uniformed Franklin "in a handmade outfit, which resembles that worn by Ku Klux Klan" members, according to an interoffice memo. Also included in the envelope was a note that read "Sergeant Wlodarsky on duty at the Sandusky Post on January 20th, 2008. What a way to represent the Ohio State Highway Patrol!" This triggered the internal investigation. It was not revealed how the anonymous person in Mansfield found out about the incident.
When confronted by investigators, Wlodarsky and Franklin explained that the picture was taken as a joke and modeled after a skit by comedian Dave Chappelle. The idea to dress up in the Klan outfit was hatched from a skit done by Chappelle, a black male comedian. The investigator was able to find the skit on the Internet, which better corroborated the troopers' story and may have prevented them from being fired outright. In addition, Franklin seemed particularly penitent over his actions.
And "fired" was the first thing that crossed the mind of Henry Guzman, director of Ohio Department of Public Safety. He originally intended to fire both Wlodarsky and Franklin based upon the outcome of the investigation. However, thanks to their union contract, both were allowed to keep their jobs under a "last chance discipline agreement," following a pre-disciplinary hearing held on March 24th. The agreement provides an employee a last chance to correct his behavior. The employee can be fired if he violates patrol rules in the next two years. If an officer who enters into the agreement maintains a clean record for that period of time, record of the incident will be wiped from his record.
Both Wlodarsky and Franklin will be terminated if they violate rules of "conduct becoming an officer," a patrol spokesman said. He said conduct issues are "very broad", which means they better not so much as break wind during roll call, I imagine.
Wlodarsky was demoted from sergeant to trooper and transferred to the Norwalk post. He can never be reassigned to the Sandusky post and must attend a diversity awareness class.
Franklin was placed on a five-day unpaid suspension. He must also attend diversity awareness training.
Demuth was given a one-day suspension for failing to report the incident to a supervisor and forwarding the photo to a subordinate.
"Obviously, we're extremely disappointed in the action of the three officers," said Lt. Shawn Davis, a spokesman for the patrol. "This kind of conduct cannot and will not be tolerated." [Ed. Note: Another example of the brass throwing the rank-and-file cops to the wolves.]
Wlodarsky and Demuth both had good service records prior to the incident, according to their supervisor, Lt. Greg Greggila. "I've never had a problem with them, they are good officers," Greggila said. "They made a mistake and unfortunately they got what was coming to them as a result of that." Greggila said neither man is a racist. Franklin also had a clean record.
Of course, the state's governor had to get a cheap shot in just to "show the flag". Governor Ted Strickland knew of the picture, said Keith Dailey, a spokesman for the governor. "The governor was extremely disappointed to learn of these troopers' actions," Dailey said, adding Strickland called the actions of the troopers "inappropriate" and "unacceptable."
So far, none of the usual suspects, such as the NAACP or the Urban League, have played the race card in response. This was nothing more than an internal prank, a bunch of cops engaging in typical cop humor.